Greetings. My name is Keem Love Black, a Ugandan Transgender Social Activist. I was born and raised as a boy in the suburbs of Kampala the capital city of Uganda to a Moslem family. I have four siblings, one cis gender female and three cis gender males.
Growing up in Kampala was not easy for a transgender girl like me, because for me being a woman came naturally at a very tender age. Even as a toddler, I preferred to play with girly stuff like dolls. As I continued to grow up, I preferred to play softer games with the girls as opposed to my brothers and other boys my age who took on more masculine games like football and cycling (please note that cycling is to this day still largely considered a boy’s thing in Uganda).
Expressing myself as trans often put me in the line for insults from both my father and other kids in the village, boys and girls alike, they used to call me “Kyakula Kazi” a derogatory term meant to mean a biological male behaving like a woman. To my father, this was unacceptable and he often forced me to take on more masculine roles against my own wishes and desires.
Fast forward to my teenage years, my father and brothers now determined to correct me, I was forced to move away from home and sought refuge at my maternal grandmother’s home where I spent most of my teenage years in denial not knowing who I really was. At the age of 19, I chanced upon a brochure for an LGBT organization called Youth on Rock Foundation and immediately made contact. It was them that introduced me to materials that helped me understand who I was and slowly started accepting myself. It was here I learnt that I was a transgender woman even though I had secretly and sometimes openly lived so all my life.
I lived in this community supporting other transgender women to live their lives freely and productively, at the same time I was also engaged in Karaoke dancing where I met my late friend Abbey. She was another trans woman with whom we worked with for many years but it was unfortunate that she had to lose her life largely due to the discrimination in hospitals that could not enable her access to comprehensive care, treatment and support for HIV. After her death in 2013, I decided that enough was enough and knew something had to be done.
It was at this point that I started my online activism trying to spread awareness about transgender people and their plight to a larger audience in Uganda than we could reach to in our karaoke sessions. The first few years were not easy with threats to my life and all kinds of abuses on my timeline. Regardless of all of this, I pushed on and eventually started getting some acceptance. I also started an online project called Daughters of Keem Love, where I showcased the works of other transgender women in Uganda and their resilience.
I started attending showbiz concerts as a transgender woman and very soon I was getting invited to speak to health care workers about the plight of transgender women and transgenders in general while trying to access health care services. And to this end I founded an organization called Trans Positives Uganda to handle and organize this very important work that was now coming up as a result of my online activism.
Today I am glad to say that there has been a real difference in Uganda because of this work and the support I get from my peers. I am stronger than ever to continue advocating and it will be a real privilege for me to work with you on these and more ever evolving political issues and how they affect transgender persons in Uganda.
Keem Love Black. (she/her/hers)